Slavery

Liberia Established by Freed Slaves

Monrovia

Monrovia

Freed American slaves established country of Liberia, on the west coast of Africa, 1824.  After the struggle for liberty in the American Revolution, free and enslaved African Americans faced continued hardship and inequality. A number of white Americans, for a variety of reasons, joined them in their efforts to resolve this complex problem.

One possible solution (advocated at a time when the assimilation of free blacks into American society seemed out of the question) was the complete separation of white and black Americans. Some voices called for the return of African Americans to the land of their forebears.  Continue reading

Briton Hammon

Briton Hammon Papers

Briton Hammon Papers

On a December day in 1747 Briton Hammon, a slave to Major John Winslow of Marshfield, Massachusetts, walked out of town with, as he put it, `an Intention to go a voyage to sea.’ Tucked into the sandy bight of Cape Cod Bay, some thirty miles south of Boston, and reeking of tidal flats and Stockholm tar, Marshfield was a minor star in the galaxy of Britain’s commercial empire, and only a short walk from Plymouth, where Hammon shipped himself the next day `on board of a Sloop, Capt. John Howland, Master, bound to Jamaica and the Bay’ of Campeche for logwood.

Experienced at shipboard work, as were approximately 25 percent of the male slaves in coastal Massachusetts during the 1740s, Hammon had not run away. But like all black people in early America who wrought freedom where they could, nurtured it warily, and understood it as partial and ambiguous at best, Hammon seized the moment.   Continue reading

Matthias de Sousa

Matthias de Sousa

Matthias de Sousa

In 1634 Matthias de Sousa and John Price were picked up on the island of Barbados by two small ships that were sailing towards the Chesapeake Bay. Neither of the men had any money to pay for their voyage, so they agreed to work for up to seven years in order to repay the debt. Once their term of service was over, they were both to be declared freemen. Not much is known about the life of John Price after the seven years of service, but there is some documented records concerning Matthias de Sousa.

Matthias de Sousa was a passenger on the Dove when it landed on St. Clemens Island on March 25, 1634. “He was an aide to Father White, the Jesuit priest who came with the founding company of the state of Maryland.”  Continue reading

Lily Ann Granderson (aka Milla Granson)


Soon after Union troops had captured and occupied the southern city of Natchez, Mississippi, in the summer of 1863, northern missionaries set about establishing the region’s first schools for freedpeople. But they were surprised to learn that at least one school already existed, and it had been in operation for many years.

Even more astounding, the students at this school were slaves and so was their teacher, Lily Ann Granderson. (Other sources identify her as Milla Granson and Lila Grandison.) Although a small number of slaves learned to read and write in the antebellum South, schools for slaves and slave teachers were extraordinarily uncommon.  Continue reading

Hanging of Nat Turner

Nat Turner, the leader of a bloody slave revolt in Southampton County, Virginia, was hanged in Jerusalem, the county seat on November 11, 1831′hanging

Turner, a slave and educated minister, believed that he was chosen by God to lead his people out of slavery. On August 21, 1831, he initiated his slave uprising by slaughtering Joseph Travis, his slave owner, and Travis’ family. With seven followers, Turner set off across the countryside, hoping to rally hundreds of slaves to join his insurrection. Turner planned to capture the county armory at Jerusalem, Virginia, and then march 30 miles to Dismal Swamp, where his rebels would be able to elude their pursuers.  Continue reading

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